thread: 2014-07-18 : Objects of RPGs

On 2014-07-18, AsIf wrote:

I feel your pain with the word "supplant" because it implies a total replacement, whereas we are speaking more of a shift of focus in which both centers of attention exist but the primary locus is fixated - or wishes to be fixated - on the second order rather than the first.  We need a better word, but alas, I think only a longish string of words will do the job right now.  I shall continue to use the word "supplant" but with your caveats, and meanwhile hope to find a better single word.

I like Bernard Suits' definition - "Playing a game is a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles."  This is a definition broad enough to include both RPGs and golf.

In playing golf (or making up a story by yourself) there is only one level of play.  This is "first-order difficulty".  It is the physical, literal you, engaging in an interaction with "first-order reality".  (Note: On this level it can be difficult to tell the difference between a "game" and an "exercise".)

In RPGs, however, a new simulated difficulty is added which takes place in a "second-order reality".  At this point there are actually 2 games going on.  In the first-order reality, you are challenging the real-world unnecessary difficulty of playing a character, modifying your imaginary model in realtime in response to input from others, remaining conscious of the rules and following them, creating fictional output, etc.  In the second-order (simulated) reality, your fictional character faces fictional difficulties which you (and or the others around the table) attempt to adjudicate resolution of in varying degrees of style (genre/tone/custom), depth (bit-depth of resolution), and gravitas (seriousness, character-identification, bleed).

IOW, beyond this point, our distinctions between different types of RPGs and playstyles have a lot to do with the question of whether, and to what degree, the second order supplants the first one.
- A "Gamist" approach remains very much on the first order, for instance, and the second order is viewed in a way similar to passive entertainment (for instance, everyone knows that a game of chess simulates a war, but the emergent fiction - the story of that war - is almost always totally ignored). 
- In "Author Stance" and "Director Stance" it is a varying blend of first- and second-order difficulties which supplants normal consciousness, but the first order remains the dominant one. 
- In "Actor Stance" the first-order difficulty (you playing the game itself) is abstracted to the level of an "exercise" and/or offloaded to a set of "GM" functions, while the second-order difficulty (your character interacting with the fictional world) becomes your intentional focus and aims to supplant nearly all normal consciousness.

(Am I being exactly challenging enough?)


This makes Rickar go "I recognize that definition... ;)"

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